Jay Kellner didn’t have a particular direction in mind for the Elgin Children’s Chorus when he co founded it more than two decades ago.
He was simply trying to find young singers for a local performance of “Carmina Burana,” and noticed the lack of a children’s chorus that could handle such a piece.
Twenty five years later, the group started by Kellner and Kay Paulson has performed at the likes of Carnegie Hall and cathedrals around Europe. It has led “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” at a Chicago Cubs jerseys game, spent months performing with Donny Osmond in “Joseph in the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” and watched some of its singers go on to pursue music professionally.
It also leaves no questions these days as to its vision: “Teaching life through song.”
“When I see someone who is 30 years old come up with a huge smile on their face and talk about a tune they sang and what it meant to them, that’s a special thing,” Kellner said. “Everyone has not just memories, but are who they are because of what they experienced when they were wearing one of our uniforms.”
The group will celebrate its anniversary during two concerts this spring at Elgin Community College. March 13 and feature Celtic singers Jenne Lennon and Liz Madden. May 15 and feature alumni from the chorus.
Lennon, 27, spent seven years in the Elgin Children’s Chorus and said the opportunity to travel and to learn from some of the top choirs in the world were her ticket to becoming a professional musician. While TV shows like “American Idol” make singing look like a recreational sport, she said, the chorus taught her the art and science behind it, along with life lessons.
“It was instilled in us whatever you choose to do in life, music or not, you do the best you can and go out in the world and give back,” Lennon said.
She now writes cheap mlb jerseys for sale and sings Celtic music and has an album coming out this spring. She also writes for TV and film and teaches Celtic music.
Ann Kepley, executive director of the Elgin Children’s Chorus, said the group is proud of those who have gone on to pursue musical careers, but also is enthusiastic about those who take away a new appreciation for music.
“Music is with you all your life,” Kepley said. “It participates in every major event whether it’s a baptism, wedding, graduations, and certainly choir members are the audience of tomorrow because they are learning listening skills and appreciating not only the experience, but the effort it takes for people to produce a beautiful sound.”
The Elgin Children’s Chorus is currently made up of about 126 children ages 7 to 16 who are spread out in five choirs. Kepley said the children come from 78 schools and about 30 communities.
Among the current singers are Huntley High School freshmen twins Jessie and Kayla Oshinski, who started going to Elgin Children’s Chorus performances with their grandparents before they were even old enough to join. Now 15, they have spent about 7 years with the chorus.
As they near the end of their time with the group, Jessie said she is thinking about branching out into community theater. Kayla hopes to pursue a career as a music teacher or a dancer. Both praised the directors who have helped them learn everything from reading music and projecting their voices to looking for meaning in the songs they sing.
“My outlook on music has changed and it’s amazing what they can do,” Jessie said.
Kellner said interested singers can audition. Prior training is not required. The chorus also offers a summer camp to let new singers get their feet wet.